Tue | Sep 26, 2017

Derrick Clarke takes on a different stage

Published:Sunday | October 11, 2015 | 10:00 AMShelly-Ann Thompson
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'Lick him, Shrimpy, lick him!'

We all know of him. Richard 'Shrimpy' Clarke was Jamaica's flyweight and super flyweight boxer of the 1980s and 1990s. He won local and international fights, winning 27 from 33 fights as a professional boxer.

However, these days, it's his son who is continuing his legacy of fame - though through a different form, the arts.

Twenty-four-year-old Derrick Clarke is the first child for Juliet Hewitt-Clarke and the fourth for Richard Clarke. A rising artist who continues to leave audiences spellbound and enthralled.

He is an actor, a musician and a writer. Yes, a multitalented individual. And he recently signed on as a dance teacher at Excelsior Primary in St Andrew. His acting skills, however, are what brings him the most fame now. Most prominent on his acting slate, he is a yearly cast member in the National Pantomime for the past five years.

One evening at dusk inside the quiet halls of The Little Theatre, the sprightly actor sheds it all. No gimmicks, no tricks, he became the quiet, soft-spoken Derrick only close friends know, sharing stories of adoration for his parents and how his love for the performing arts is bigger than any world stage.

"To take something that probably doesn't exist and create something from that; whether playing a comedic or dramatic role and lead people into it to say this is your domain ... where I want you and this is what I want you to think and feel is simply amazing," he said.

He is getting rave reviews this year on the theatre circuit for his portrayal of a rat, 'Rattus', in the recently concluded months-long run pantomime. The children loved him, screamed when he came on stage - shouts of "Rattus" could be heard at any given performance during and after the production - results of hours of practice and research on the dramatisation of a rat. When he was tasked with depicting the creature, he spent hours on YouTube making notes on how rat characters were presented on stages in North America and Europe.

He gets excited by the idea of make believe - that he can bring a character to life that leave audiences so captivated they don't realise it's acting.

"When I get to go into different characters, I get to go into people's minds," he said.

Escape from stresses

In his opinion, he believes people are primarily drawn to the arts as a medium to escape the stresses of life. That often before curtain call the "bad energies" can be felt within the audience.

"When we start to perform, you can hear the little laughter, the whole environment gets lighter. Some different frequencies start come in, some higher frequencies that give you, the performer, more drive to go out there and punch it: every line, every note, everything. That's why we don't play with people's money when they come in the theatre, we deliver because we know those things," he said.

When persons find out about his genealogy he's usually told how he looks a lot like his father, who is still very much involved in the sport as the head boxing coach at the Stanley Couch Gymnasium in downtown Kingston. Having a short frame like his dad, he tried boxing. But those weren't the skills he got from the great 'Shrimpy' Clarke. What he got was the desire to achieve. Acting is his passion and so he left the gym for EXED Community College, where he did an Associate of Science Degree in Performing Arts, Drama major.

"I grew up like one of those youth always in front of the TV. Watching Disney Channel, amazed to see those young persons - sometimes younger than I was - performing, and I'd say I want to be one of those persons on Disney Channel, and that distracted me from boxing. I tell my father that one day I am gonna be a bigger legend than he is," he laughed.

Mother was dancer

The young actor's performing arts skill is not far off in his genes, his mother Juliet Hewitt-Clarke was a dancer in her youth, dominating the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission Festival of the Arts' stage.

"She's also a very dramatic person. If she were an actress, it would take a while for me to 'buss' because she got it," he said.

Motivating parents and a passion for the arts, Clarke is determined to continue capturing hearts and minds.

"Even Alfred Hitchcock says, an actor's motivation is his salary. But for me, when I say 'salary', I actually mean the returns - not just financially. If you expect to get money and you get it, yes, but if you get 1,000 people following your work, then that is some good salary right there for me."

To see Derrick Clarke, "Shrimpy Clarke's son", "Rattus" - whichever name you prefer to call him - in performance, catch him at The Little Theatre, the Redbones Blues CafÈ both in St Andrew, or on one of his edutainment school tours.